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Charter schools no panacea for education system – Bill Courtney

private public schoolsPractical issues arising from the initial set of schools have highlighted how poor the policy development, authorisation and implementation processes have been.

The charter school initiative is driven by the ideology of those who believe that a market-based, privatised system is inherently superior to an education system based primarily – but not exclusively – on public provision.

But it’s abundantly clear that the market model just doesn’t work in education.

Dr Andreas Schleicher, the Programme Director of the PISA international assessments, had this to say about the “choice” model, as the market model is commonly called overseas:

“My organisation [the OECD] is very strong on choice, enabling citizens to make choices, and you would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better. You expect competition to raise performance of the high performers and with low performers put them out of the market. But in fact you don’t see that correlation… Competition alone is not a predictor for better outcomes.”

The overseas evidence bears this out. The CREDO studies of charter school versus public school performance in the USA are often cited by charter school advocates as proof that their system is superior. But the true position is far from clear.

The 2013 CREDO study reveals that 75 per cent of charter schools either underperform or are not significantly different in reading from public schools, while the corresponding figure for maths is 71 per cent underperforming or not significantly different.

But, more importantly, the CREDO studies make it clear that charter school performance varies widely. This means there are examples right across the spectrum of charter schools that illustrate educational excellence right down to those that are simply incompetent and even downright fraudulent.

So, my take on this is straightforward: changing the structure and organisational types of school within your school system will do nothing to materially impact on overall student achievement. It is this stark reality that really underpins the experience seen in New Zealand over the past year. Charter schools will not succeed just because they are charter schools.

They will exhibit the same range of outcomes and experiences – good and bad – as all types of school ultimately do. So, why are we doing this, just because someone thought it was a good idea? The poor policy and authorisation processes and the individuals responsible for them are at fault here – not the poor souls who have been dropped in at the deep end of the pool.

The original NZ Model of Charter School Working Group, headed by former ACT Party President Catherine Isaac, never produced any reports, advice or recommendations to its sponsoring Ministers, as required by its Terms of Reference. The Ministry of Education confirmed this in response to an Official Information Act request, when I asked to see the Working Group’s output.

The result of this omission is the lack of any definitive statement as to what this initiative really is, what evidence it is based on and how it is likely to make a genuine difference. One obvious example of this confusion is the stance taken by Catherine Isaac on Radio New Zealand late last year, that charter schools are really about “alternative education” for high risk students, while ACT MP David Seymour is busy running around arguing that every school in New Zealand should convert to charter school status!

This lack of clear policy direction has created many design and implementation problems. If we were really doing “alternative education” then wouldn’t we need the strongest and most capable teachers who were able and willing to go out on a limb and to take risks? Why then was the Education Act amended to expressly allow non-registered teachers in charter schools, when all other types of school in the system require all teachers to be registered? What criteria were to be used in deciding which schools were to be authorised?

How was someone like Catherine Isaac ever going to be able to assess the educational merit of charter school applicants, given her complete lack of knowledge in that field? How would the new schools be resourced, funded and supported to carry out their demanding challenge? And how would this funding and support compare to the three other “types” of school already in the New Zealand system, including other “schools of choice”, which we call State-Integrated?

There are numerous other questions that are likely to go unanswered as the experiment unfolds, but at the heart of the matter lies the failure to state clearly what we are really doing and why.

Perhaps if our education policy makers and leaders focused on the true realities of the challenges our education system faces, we could at least begin the dialogue of how we need to go forward together. But honesty and humility are not the natural characteristics of such people.

It is inherently easier to hide behind ideology and blame everyone else for “system failure”.

– BILL COURTNEY

Bill is a parent and former school trustee who writes for the Save Our Schools NZ education blog site. 

The original article can be found here and is reproduced with the consent of Education HQ.

Fact Checker: Vanguard’s 2014 NCEA Results Release

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

The press release from Vanguard Military School on its 2014 NCEA results makes for impressive reading on the surface (release date 18 February 2015). Digging deeper, a  few key questions are worth asking.

First, a statement about percentage pass rates does not reveal two key ingredients: how many students obtained that qualification and how many attempted it, especially in relation to the number of students in the cohort?

This is important in any school that experiences a high rate of student attrition, as Vanguard did in 2014.

Second, in what subjects have these students achieved their qualification?

Vanguard’s curriculum is narrow, which is a practical constraint given the small size of the school.  At NCEA Level 2 students take five compulsory subjects and then two electives.  The compulsory subjects are English, Maths, Physical Education, Physical Training and Recruit Development Course.

The electives are Engineering and Defence Force Studies (vocational pathway) or Maori, Biology or History, from the university pathway.

It is not clear from the release how many students went down the university pathway and how many took the vocational pathway.

Nor is there any indication as to the level of achievement within each subject.  However, it is possible that such detailed information may be available at a later date.

In addition, although the press release stated that the school’s roll has “increased from 108 students in 2014 to 144 this year”, this is not quite correct.

charter schools this-does-not-add-upVanguard’s “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” was set as 108 students in 2014, as per its contract with the Ministry of Education.  Vanguard was therefore funded throughout the year as if it always had this number of students, but the reality was quite different.

Roll returns obtained from the Ministry of Education’s School Directory database indicate actual student roll numbers as follows: 104 as at 1 March; 93 as at 1 July and 79 in October.

Vanguard has previously stated that many students received their qualifications during the course of the year and then left, often to join the military forces.  This may well be a sensible and logical outcome for the students concerned but the taxpayer still funded the privately owned and operated school for many more students than it ever enrolled.

This is in contrast to the position of State and State-Integrated secondary schools, which lose funding during the course of the year if their roll numbers decline.

Guaranteed Minimum Roll levels and funding details for 2015 for the 5 first round charter schools have not been released by the Ministry of Education, despite repeated requests under the Official Information Act.

This lack of transparency has plagued the charter school experiment from the outset and undermines any confidence that the taxpayer may have about how their funding is being used.

Finally, there are ongoing concerns around the charter school funding formula, particularly in respect of funding for property costs.

On balance, this may or may not be a good set of results, given the expectations of the students and their families. Many questions remain about this concept and its applicability to the New Zealand system.

It is the stance of Save Our Schools that individual school performances will not, in themselves, either prove or disprove the charter school idea in New Zealand.

As we see in the United States, charter school performance varies widely and right across the spectrum.  We expect charter schools in New Zealand to exhibit the same characteristics.

It is the ACT Party conference this weekend but Vanguard’s oh-so-positive press release is unlikely to be the full story.

~ Bill Courtney

Unanswered Questions about Charter Schools – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

QPEC Chairperson, Bill Courtney, participated in two interviews broadcast on Radio New Zealand on Wednesday 10 September 2014 on the subject of the first five charter, or Partnership, schools.

QPEC is concerned by several comments made during these segments by both Minister of Education, Hekia Parata and Catherine Isaac, the Chairperson of the Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Authorisation Board.

The following release sets out several of the issues that QPEC believes require clarification or rebuttal.

1.

Where is the Isaac Report? The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the original Working Group led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report. This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this and how it should therefore be resourced, funded and evaluated.

a. “The Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Working Group (formerly known as the New Zealand Model of Charter School Working Group) has not produced any document that sets out the evidential base behind charter schools.”

Ministry of Education letter dated 4 October 2012.

b. “The Working Group did not produce any reports, recommendations or advice to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education:

i. Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School;

ii. Regulatory Impact Statement

iii. Authorising and Monitoring Report back

iv. Resourcing Partnership Schools

OIA Ministry of Education letter dated 8 August 2013.

 

2.

Why is there so little transparency around the charter school authorisation process and how the schools operate? There have been serious concerns from the outset about the deliberate moves to reduce transparency and remove the schools from the scope of normal public sector accountability.

a. “I do not accept the Ministry’s position that later disclosure of the [application] information at issue will satisfy the public interest. Disclosure after the Minister has taken decisions on the applications may serve the public interest in accountability, but it would not satisfy the public interest in the public being informed, and being able to participate in the debate, about the creation of partnership schools prior to those decisions being taken. The partnership schools policy involves substantial public funds and significant changes to the way in which publicly funded education provision is controlled, managed and delivered. I consider a more informed public discourse about the creation of such schools is in the public interest.”

Ombudsman Report, dated July 2013.

3.

Why does Hekia Parata state incorrectly that the funding figures per student are a “gross misuse” of the data? The Operational Funding calculations have not included the one-off Establishment Payments, as Hekia Parata states. In the story reported on Radio NZ on Tuesday 9 September, the Whangaruru funding was stated as “nearly $27,000 a pupil,” which is based on Operational Funding of $1,508,561 divided by 56 students, giving $26,939 per student. This excludes the Establishment Payment of $1,379,150.

4.

Why does Catherine Isaac, as the Chairperson of the Authorisation Board, not know what the charter school rolls are, if her group is also responsible for monitoring their progress? Why have the Minister and Catherine Isaac both made statements about the schools’ rolls that are simply not correct?

a. Isaac: Radio NZ 10 September: “It is simply not correct [that 3 out of the 5 schools have not reached their guaranteed minimum roll]. Many are at their maximum roll and have waiting lists.”

b. Parata: “All five are near or above enrolment.” Parliament, Questions for Oral Answer, no. 7, 11 February 2014

School “GuaranteedMinimum Roll” MaximumRoll Actual Roll@ 1 March Actual Roll@ 1 July
South Auckland Middle School 90 120 108 110
Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru 71 128 63 56
Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa 50 300 50 53
Rise Up Academy 50 100 42 46
Vanguard Military School 108 192 104 93
Total 369 840 367 358

5.

Although rolls may well fluctuate at any school during the course of the year, the fact remains that two of the schools have experienced falling rolls during the year.

6.

The absence of any substantive case for “What” and “Why” leads to another problem: How is the charter school initiative going to be evaluated? This point is vitally important if the public is to gain confidence that the initiative is to be objectively and independently evaluated, as the Cabinet Paper tabled by the Minister of Education, in October 2013, promises:

a. “The Cabinet paper “Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School” states:

“A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future” [CAB Min (12) 26/6 refers.]”

b. The October 2013 cabinet paper was prepared after a briefing paper from the Ministry of Education, dated 6 September 2013, contained the following warning:

…risks in moving from what was described as a pilot to an on-going roll-out before evaluating the model. Committing to on-going annual rounds now will reduce the potential for evaluation of the early schools to be taken into account before a long term roll-out.”

7.

In many ways, the most important comments made during the day, were the disparaging comments made by the one person who is ultimately responsible for New Zealand’s public education system: the Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education:

“But what’s the alternative? To have these kids become another statistic in the justice system, or in the social welfare system”

8.

No, Hekia. The alternative is to stop talking in clichés and to start dealing head on with the real challenge of properly resourcing public schools. Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.

Issued by
Bill Courtney
Chairperson
Quality Public Education Coalition

Are ACT’s charter schools fiscally responsible? – PPTA

 

PPTA ACT cahrter schools flier 1

 

 

 

PPTA ACT charter schools flier 3

 

 

PPTA ACT charter schools flier 3

Charter Schools now even smaller and more expensive – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

NZ’s charter school experiment is proving to be even more expensive than first thought, as two schools have experienced falling rolls since the start of the 2014 school year and three remain below what is termed their “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” for funding purposes.

As a result, the number of students enrolled has fallen to 358 across the 5 charter schools and the schools will now receive an average of $20,878 in funding this year.

Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, discussed the controversial initiative on TV’s Q&A programme last weekend, describing it as a “…niche sort of thing…”

But the argument that this is only a “niche” is in stark contrast with ACT Party policy.

The ACT Party wants to expand the charter school programme and ultimately convert all state schools into privately operated charter schools.

The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the Working Group led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report.

This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this.

Two charter secondary schools, Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru and the Vanguard Military School, have seen their rolls fall by around 10% between March and July:

Whangaruru from 63 to 56 and Vanguard from 104 to 93.

Students may well have left the schools for justifiable reasons, such as joining the military, in the case of Vanguard, but the funding implications are clear.

Under the terms of the charter school contracts, each school is funded for the full year at a minimum level set in advance at the start of the year. Whangaruru is funded for 71 students and Vanguard is funded for 108 students. In addition, the primary school, Rise Up Academy, is funded at a level of 50 students but has only 46 students as at 1 July.

Based on the 1 July roll returns, Whangaruru will now receive $26,939 per student in 2014 and Vanguard will receive $22,837 per student (see table below):

QPEC charter release table 20140909

So across the 5 charter schools, total student enrolment has fallen to 358 and the average minimum operational funding cost per student for 2014 has increased to $20,878.

In practice, actual funding per student may be higher than these estimated figures, if the school roll has exceeded its “guaranteed minimum roll”, as the contract stipulates funding will be set at the greater of the two.

One further aspect that disturbs us, is that the Vanguard Military School is sponsored by a for-profit family owned company. Will the fixed revenue stream be spent on the remaining students or will it fall into the Income Statement of the Sponsor?

QPEC reiterates its call for a review of this controversial policy as it is clear that it is nothing more than a political stunt.

QPEC also wants to see a major review of school funding take place after the election. It is time to re-examine all aspects of school funding and to seek a more equitable basis for funding our most deserving students and the community schools that serve them.

We have an opportunity to help level the playing field for the most disadvantaged children.

Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.

Big worries with charter school experiment

danger turn backYet more concerns have come  to light regarding New Zealand’s charter school system.

One of the first five schools, that started up in February 2014, has had huge problems.  Te Kura Hourua ke Whangaruru, a bilingual secondary school for years 9-13, has a dropping school roll, up to a third of students absent on any one day, poor planning, serious internal issues, and fighting and drug problems with students.

A Ministry-appointed facilitator was appointed, working there almost daily for hours at a time, and he stepped back only “after a local Child, Youth and Family manager was seconded to the job of executive principal.” Source

Radio NZ’s Morning Report piece can be listened to here. (approx 5 minutes long)

So far, the school has cost up to 500% what it costs to fund a state school pupil.  Needless to say, principals and teachers at state schools are furious that they are struggling to get help for students equally needy, when money is being wasted on the charter school experiment.

There has been concern from many quarters regarding charter schools.  The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has questioned the “secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment”, PPTA have said that charters are “based on an extremist ideology which has no basis in evidence”, NZEI have expressed amazement at the experiment, saying “it beggars belief that any government of any persuasion would want to undermine a quality public education system in this way”. Leading academics from both New Zealand and overseas have also spoken out against the charter school experiment.

This is not an experiment we can afford to continue.  Any school currently running that is found to be doing a good job should, as Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana have suggested, be given the option to join the state system as appropriate.  Those failing should be closed down.

The focus MUST be on improving the lot of all students in need, on helping all schools get the best resources to help those students, on making sure the whole support system is bolstered and supported so that it can properly serve all schools and their students.

Any system that serves to support only some students whilst ignoring the majority, is a system New Zealand doesn’t need.

 

Sources and further reading:

Jamie Whyte discussed charter schools this morning in his leader’s interview on Radio NZ. It makes fascinating listening  (from 17 minutes on).

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/20148886/ministry-documents-reveal-problems-at-charter-school

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED1409/S00050/charter-school-shambles-show-governments-failing-experiment.htm

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1409/S00129/charter-school-crisis-shows-time-to-axe-costly-experiment.htm

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/act-party-supports-big-spending-policy-price-no-object-says-qpec/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/teachers-to-epsom-voters-dont-let-act-wreck-our-education-system/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/charter-school-arrogance-versus-the-public-interest-qpec/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/documents-reveal-governments-secretive-approach-to-charter-schools-nzei/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/10458104/No-justification-for-wholesale-changes-to-education

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10876711

 

ACT Party supports big spending policy – price no object! says QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

The ACT party has foisted a secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment on New Zealand taxpayers with its so-called Partnership Schools.

ACT, the party of so-called fiscal responsibility, is quite happy to squander more than seventeen million taxpayer dollars on five small schools.

QPEC is concerned the policy has set up the conditions for the same kind of scams, fraud, mismanagement and poor academic performance that is plaguing charter schools in the United States.

Now the Epsom candidate is crowing that the “children are thrilled” to be going to these five schools. QPEC would like to know how the ACT candidate knows this.

No information on these schools is available through the Official Information Act, because the National Government legislated that the schools could work in complete secrecy.

There is no National Standards data so no public record of how they are doing.

We do know that the schools are costing taxpayers more than double the price of a state school education, and that three of the five schools had enrolment numbers below the guaranteed minimum at 31 March.

Local communities concerned were never consulted on whether they even want a so-called partnership school, nor on whether it is needed, nor on how they are expected to continue to offer a quality public education when such a well-funded school is set up alongside them.

QPEC is concerned that the ACT Party, having set these schools up to avoid public disclosure, is now claiming that they are successful, when they cannot know that.  All we do know is that they are extremely expensive.

In the light of the Dirty Politics scandal, any political group that trumpets the success of a secretive, taxpayer funded scheme, needs to come under scrutiny.

Candidate David Seymour, who is likely to become an MP due to a deal between National and ACT, has been quite specific in supporting the South Auckland Middle School, a fundamentalist Christian partnership school.

We think it is highly inappropriate for David Seymour to be “going to Wellington”, as he said, to advocate for individual schools, or for a system that deliberately hides funding from taxpayers. Where is the openness and transparency that ACT used to support?

ENDS

Contact: Dr Liz Gordon 0274545008

 

Mythbuster: Privatisation does not increase Education Choice

Myth:

“We believe that students will get better educations if their parents have more choice and educators face more competition.”

Source: ACT Party Education Policy 2014, p.1

 

ACT Party Leader, Dr Jamie Whyte, keeps saying that his party would privatise the public education system and believes this will provide increased “Choice” to parents.

But a quick look at the New Orleans “Recovery School District” website will reveal that Dr Whyte is deluded and that privatised systems do not work as he thinks. And besides, New Zealand parents already have more choice in education than he acknowledges.

 

The Recovery School District in New Orleans is the best worked example of a system where all the schools have now been privatised. This followed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which accelerated the process of establishing privately operated charter schools and closing public schools.

Unfortunately, in the new fully privatised system, there are three things that parents cannot now choose:

  1. They cannot choose their school, as the system “assigns” their child to a school;
  2. Once assigned, they cannot choose to just leave their school;
  3. And most importantly, they cannot choose to send their child to a public school.

Because the charter schools are privately operated parents initially had a nightmare trying to enrol their children. As enrolment applications usually exceed the number of places available at each school, parents needed to apply to many different schools, as they did not know for certain whether their children would get accepted. This caused a backlash and a centrally operated enrolment system was developed, called One-App.

One-App allows parents to apply once on one application form and to designate their top 3 preferred schools. The process is not easy and the form is nearly 20 pages long!

But any suggestion that parent choice prevails goes out the door pretty quickly.

 

No choiceThe enrolment system assigns each child to a school. If the parents are happy with the school they have been assigned to in the main round, then they do no more. But, if they are unhappy, then they may apply again in the second or third rounds.

Here’s what the RSD website reveals:

“The system matched 90 percent of entering kindergarten and rising ninth grade applicants to one of their top three school choices In non-transition grades, 70 percent of applicants were matched to a top choice; and in pre-kindergarten, where the demand for seats is greater than the supply, 75 percent of students were matched to one of their top choices.”

Source: http://www.rsdla.net/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=310270&id=0

 

So, let’s be very clear.

  • The system assigns children to schools. Parents do NOT choose;
  • In total, 80 percent of applicants were assigned to a top 3 school choice, of which only 61% were assigned to their Rank 1 selection.

But, it’s even harder, in some ways, to leave your school. Why? Because once everyone has been assigned there are very few available places.

“Prior to the beginning of the third week of August and after February 1, a family requesting admission to a school other than the one they were assigned to or currently attend can submit a Placement Exception Request (PER).”

So, parents need to complete a form and seek permission to leave their school.

Call that parent choice?

 

Here’s what the website says:

“All PER requests must be approved by the RSD and are pending seat availability. PER requests must address a particular “hardship” and must be submitted with accompanying paperwork. The hardship criteria are Medical Hardship, Safety Transfers, Travel Hardship, Childcare Hardship and Transfer to a Specialised Program.”

So, being disappointed with the school and wanting to vote with your feet is not an option!

Finally, we come to the last choice that is missing: the right to send your child to the local, neighbourhood public school. That right has been taken away by the privatisation movement.

 

In New Zealand, parent survey research shows that only 6% of New Zealand primary and intermediate school parents say their child was attending a school that was not their family’s first choice; and the equivalent figure for secondary parents is 9%. [Source: NZCER Surveys: 2013 (Primary and Intermediate) and 2012 (Secondary)]

So, 94% of New Zealand primary/intermediate school parents and 91% of secondary parents are satisfied with their first choice school.

Contrast that to the 61% first choice figure achieved in the RSD in New Orleans and you can readily see that New Zealand parents already have more effective school choice options available to them than their counterparts in a privatised system.

 

Education and the ACT Party

The Party of American Crackpot Theories, otherwise known as the ACT Party, holds its 2014 Party Conference this weekend.

The Johns

The Johns

The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has put together a handy set of pointers to help reporters covering the conference to get to the “nitty gritty” of ACT’s Education policies.

1. Let’s call a spade a spade
ACT hides behind the nice phrase “Choice” when it talks about the charter school model imported from the USA. But Choice is just the euphemism used in America to describe the privatisation of public education. Why don’t they come clean and call it that so we can see what they really mean?

Diane Ravitch, US Education Commentator and author of “Reign Of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”:

“Reformers don’t like to mention the word “privatisation”, although this is indeed the driving ideological force behind the movement. “Choice” remains the preferred word, since it suggests that parents should be seen as consumers with the ability to exercise their freedom to leave one school and select another. The new movement for privatisation has enabled school choice to transcend its tarnished history as an escape route for Southern whites who sought to avoid court-ordered desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Rodney Hide op-ed Herald, 18 August 2013: “Magic wand wasted on John Key”

“If you could wave a wand and change overnight one policy to make our country better, what would it be? Mine would be to privatise all schools. I would kick government totally out of anything to do with the schooling of children.

 

2. New Zealand already has loads of “Choice” within our education system.
Two comments by Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy in the USA:

“The country with the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand.” Source: Washington Post, 12 October 2012.

“New Zealand has embraced choice as a value and has developed policies that provide widespread choice for parents and students among public schools. But there is no evidence that these choice and market mechanisms have improved student performance overall and the research that has been done appears to show that there was greater inequality in student performance after such systems were installed than there was before they were introduced. ” Source: Edweek blog: “Choice and Markets: Theory and Practice”, 28 September 2012.

The Treasury ideology of the 1980s drove the introduction of the quasi-competitive model known as “Tomorrow’s Schools”. Add in the State-Integrated, Kura, Special Character and others and we have a host of choices available. But does it work? Has more choice improved student achievement?

3. Where is the Isaac Report?
Former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, was the perfect political choice to head the NZ Model of Charter School Working Group. She was paid $33,890.31, including reimbursed expenses.

But WHERE is her report?

What has guided the introduction of the charter school concept into New Zealand, when we already have so much “Choice” available? Where is the evidence to support claims that charter schools in New Zealand will lead to better outcomes for students?

Evidence: OIA request response from the Ministry of Education, dated 8 August 2013:

“The Working Group did not produce any reports, advice or recommendations to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education.”

4. “Choice” just doesn’t work – and that’s official!
Andreas Schleicher of the OECD in a UK interview, 3 December 2013:

“My organisation [the OECD] is very strong on choice, enabling citizens to make choices, and you would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better. But in fact you don’t see that correlation… Competition alone is not a predictor of better outcomes. The UK is a good example – it has a highly competitive school system but it is still only an average performer.

Our data doesn’t show much of a performance difference between public and charter and private schools once you account for social background.”

Bill Courtney
Quality Public Education Coalition
27 February 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/10/12/why-the-market-theory-of-education-reform-doesnt-work/
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2012/09/choice_and_markets_theory_and_practice.html
http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2013/12/03/uk-shows-great-school-choice-does-not-equal-higher-standards-according-to-pisa.aspx

ACT, Maori, Pasifika, and Charter Schools

ACT business and charter schools

NAct’s Vision for NZ Education (You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours)

Are NZ Charter Schools A Done Deal?

The Johns

So, I just got my grubby mits on a copy of a rather interesting document signed by the Johns Key and Banks that has some very interesting things to say about the changes to New Zealand’s education system.

It tells me (I feel with a fanfare and maybe a drum roll intro) that “National and ACT agree to establish an implementation group comprising a private sector chair, and private sector, business, iwi and community representatives along with government officials to develop the proposal.  They also agree to ensure it is implemented within this Parliamentary term.”

– Note the term implementation group – not a group to investigate whether it is a good (or sane) proposal, but one to help implement it.  Rather as if it’s a foregone conclusion.

– Note there is no mention of any educational representative in the group at all – not one.  A totally new way of educating our children and not one teacher, professor, principal or teacher aide is on the panel.  Really?  I mean, is it just me, or is that just plain crazy?

– Note they were focused on pushing this through right from the get-go.  This document is from 2011.

Christchurch, South Auckland and “Other Areas of Low Educational Performance”

As for the oft-repeated “we are listening and “nothing is set in stone” assertions of Hekia Parata and Lesley Longstone regarding the sweeping proposals in Christchurch, this document says quite clearly that “A series of charters would initially be allocated in areas such as South Auckland and Christchurch.

The document also states that “Initially the system will be implemented in areas such as South Auckland and central/eastern areas of Christchurch.  Once successfully established, and as fiscal conditions permit, the system would be extended to other areas of low educational performance.”  First of all, I am not at all happy about the use of the word ‘will’, again implying this is a done deal.  Secondly, is Eastern Christchurch really an area of low educational performance?  And even it it were, how will charter schools with untrained staff and a management focused on money-making be the answer to improving things for those children?

And remember, this document is dated December 2011, well before the Christchurch proposals were laid out for schools and the public.

Does that sound like genuine consultation to you?

Just what is really going on here?

But Our Charter Schools Will Be Modelled On Successful, Fabulous Overseas Ones, Right?

The NAct document tells us that “The [charter school] approach is modelled on successful international examples such as the KIPP schools in the US and to some extent on the system of ‘free’ schools currently being introduced in the UK.”

Oh that’s okay then, for a minute there I thought it was modelled on something crazy, like:

  • Schools that actively seek out more “motivated and compliant” students [2]
  • Schools that take in high achieving students over low achieving ones [2]
  • Schools that look for families with motivated and supportive parents [2]
  • Schools that typically have lower concentrations of special education and English as a second language students, than the public schools from which they draw [3] [7]
  • Schools where a huge proportion of students leave prematurely [2]
  • Schools where minority students are the majority of those leaving early! [7]
  • Schools where the teacher can have no teacher training or qualification at all. [8]

Oh wait…

Seriously, NAct is proposing a model of schools to deal with our most disadvantaged and poorly performing students that is known to have very serious flaws.

Tell me again how this will help them?

Just How DO Charters Achieve Their Miracles?

I have yet to hear one single thing from NAct explaining just HOW exactly charters will improve things.  It’s not an unreasonable thing to ask.  What is it that charters will do that public schools cannot?  What miraculous methods will they employ?

The reason I am so curious is that in the USA, children in charter schools have about a 17% chance of getting a better education in a charter but a 37% chance of getting a WORSE one.  [5] [6] This year, in England, exam passes for English and Maths were better in public schools than in the new Academies.

KIPP schools get some great write ups in research, and on the face of it they do fairy well, but that’s not the whole story.   As Diane Ravitch and Gerald Coles point out, “the research KIPP relies on [to prove they are doing so well] was funded by corporations and foundations that have previously given KIPP millions of dollars.” [4]  Hardly what you might call unbiased research then?

Coles asks:  “Can there be any bias in research bankrolled by the corporate contributors of the very company whose product the researchers were expected to validate? We are all familiar with the long history of industry-supported research, such as that of tobacco, drug, auto, and coal companies, all conducted by credentialed researchers, all of whom invariably produced findings that supposedly confirmed the value and safety of the products they were paid to investigate. This research on KIPP schools can be described in various ways, but “independent” surely has to take at least second place to “KIPP-funders funded research.”

The unbiased, independent research is not nearly as positive about charters, be they KIPP or otherwise.

So, if NAct is telling us charters will improve things here, I want to see some good, hard INDEPENDENT facts explaining how.

But Bad Charters Are Shut Down, Eh?

Newsweek observed that “charter schools are laboratories where educational ideas are tested. If a charter school is failing after three to five years, it is supposed to be closed down, freeing up a slot for another educational entrepreneur.” [6]  This is worrying.  What if your child is in a failing school for the whole 3-5 years it is experimenting away merrily?

And even after they are identified, poorly performing charter school are not always shut – Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) report shows that whilst the charter schools movement has been good at starting up new schools, they have not been good at closing those that are failing. So they might carry on for a long, long time, producing poor results and disadvantaging their students.

How is that any better than the system we have now? It addresses nothing.

Do you want your child to be in an experimental school, possibly with untrained staff, while the school’s sponsors (not necessarily anything to do with education at all) see if their unproven ideas will work?

No, me neither.

Don’t sit by an passively let this happen – you will live to regret it, and your children doubly so.

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DO SOMETHING:  Make a submission to parliament

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Sources and further reading:

[1] National-ACT Confidence and Supply Agreement (2011) –  http://www.act.org.nz/national-act-confidence-and-supply-agreement

[2] Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_Is_Power_Program

[3] Student Characteristics and Achievement in 22 KIPP Middle Schools KIPP Schools – http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/pdfs/education/KIPP_fnlrpt.pdf

[4] A Challenge to KIPP – http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/23/a-challenge-to-kipp/

[5] Standford University’s  Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reports on Charter Schools – http://credo.stanford.edu

[6] Understanding Charter Schools – Newsweek – http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/13/understanding-charter-schools.html

[7] “Fifteen percent of KIPP students leave each year, five times the rate of the school districts from which the organization draws students, the study found, citing federal data.  Forty percent of black males depart KIPP from sixth- to eighth-grade and more low-performing kids leave and aren’t replaced.” –  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-31/-waiting-for-superman-kipp-schools-leave-kids-out-study-finds.html

[8] Education Amendment Bill – NZ Charter (or Partnership) Schools (see Factsheet 2) – https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/education-amendment-bill-nz-charter-or-partnership-schools/

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